The Rhaeto-Romance Collection, like the Fiske Icelandic Collection and the Dante and Petrarch collections, is a bequest of Daniel Willard Fiske, Cornell's first university librarian and a singularly energetic book collector.
The term Rhaeto-Romance describes a group of closely related dialects rather than a coalesced, national language. The dialect caught the interest of Willard Fiske while he was on an expedition to the baths of Tarasp in the Lower Engadine. A chance sighting of texts in the Rhaeto-Romance language led to several purchasing excursions throughout the Alpine valleys of Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy, with the result that in "little more than five weeks," the collection as it has come to Cornell was virtually complete.
The printed catalogue of the Rhaeto-Romance collection divides the holdings into Literature (including numerous religious works), History, Philology and Description. The several hundred volumes of the Rhaeto-Romance Collection are all rare and non-circulating. Although they are not yet included in the online catalog, they are accessible through a published catalog, and through the card catalog in the Reference Room in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.